Home » Blog » Listening To The Unspoken Message

Listening To The Unspoken Message

May 26, 2018

Let’s talk about “Listening”.

This week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of over 150 youths about Using The Power Of Networking To Grow Your Business.  As I was preparing my presentation, the one thing that stood out so clearly is that networking is all about “listening to what is not being said”.

This reminded me of a story I’d like to share with you today.

A young guy from North Dakota moves to Florida and goes to a big "everything under one roof" department store looking for a job.

The Manager says, "Do you have any sales experience?"

The kid says "Yeah. I was a vacuum salesman back in North Dakota ."

Well, the boss was unsure, but he liked the kid and figured he'd give him a shot, so he gave him the job. "You start tomorrow. I'll come down after we close and see how you did."

His first day on the job was rough, but he got through it. After the store was locked up, the boss came down to the sales floor. "How many customers bought something from you today?"

The kid frowns and looks at the floor and mutters, "One".

The boss says "Just one?!!? Our sales people average sales to 20 to 30 customers a day. That will have to change, and soon, if you'd like to continue your employment here. We have very strict standards for our sales force here in Florida . One sale a day might have been acceptable in North Dakota , but you're not on the farm anymore, son."

The kid took his beating, but continued to look at his shoes, so the boss felt kinda bad for chewing him out on his first day. He asked (semi-sarcastically), "So, how much was your one sale for?"

The kid looks up at his boss and says "$101,237.65".

The boss, astonished, says $101,237.65?!? What the heck did you sell?"

The kid says, "Well, first, I sold him some new fish hooks. Then I sold him a new fishing rod to go with his new hooks. Then I asked him where he was going fishing and he said down the coast, so I told him he was going to need a boat, so we went down to the boat department and I sold him a twin engine Chris Craft. Then he said he didn't think his Honda Civic would pull it, so I took him down to the automotive department and sold him that 4x4 Expedition."

The boss said "A guy came in here to buy a fish hook and you sold him a boat and a TRUCK!?"

The kid said "No, the guy came in here to buy tampons for his wife, and I said, 'Dude, your weekend's shot, you should go fishing.’


You might have read this story before, but for me, no matter how many times I read it, it always makes me laugh. I’m trying to imagine what the boss told him after he found out about that $100K plus sale. Not sure whether he still felt that the boy needed to pull his socks up. Right there I guess the boy should have told the boss that the best sale is about quality and not about quantity. Quantity will give you temporary loyalty but quality, now quality will give you long lasting relationships with your customers.

I have a feeling that I may have shared this story before, but today, the reason I have shared it is because I want to associate it with something I’ve been seeing happening a lot lately. A lot of businesses are losing customers today because the people responsible for taking care of sales and customer service are not focusing on listening to their clients' needs. 

People, you never know how much a client can invest in your business if you don’t take time to listen to what they are not telling you. The boy in the story we just read must have had that wisdom in him to know that there could have been more than met the eye when the man came to buy tampons for his wife. By listening to the man, he realized that he had the opportunity to actually give him a different solution, besides the tampons. I get this feeling that he might have read the book I am recommending this week by Brian Tracy, “The Psychology of Selling”, for the ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018 Book Reading Challenge. If you are a sales person, or if you are a business owner, you need to read this book and have your team reading it too.

What I have always asked myself though is whether the man actually did buy the tampons for his wife, or he forgot about them after the little boy planted the seed of going fishing for that weekend. I hope the man went home to at least tell his wife that he was going fishing because otherwise, I am not sure what how he explained himself when he got back from fishing, especially if he never took the tampons to her.

Going back to the young boy, what skills do you think he had that made him make a sale of $100K and above? I will mention just a few and then I will leave you to fill in the rest of the gaps yourself.

A good listener – only a person who listens in order to understand and not to respond would have been able to note that the man was buying tampons for his wife. This obviously meant that there was no bedroom activities happening between him and his wife that weekend. I wonder how many times you have failed to understand your customers requirements because you were not listening to understand but instead you were listening to answer. Haven't you realized that God left us a clue a long time ago that we should be more of listeners than just talkers? Isn't that the reason why you have two ears but one mouth? Imagine if it was the other way round. As it is, even with two years people don't listen properly, what would happen with just one year and two mouths?

Product knowledge – even though he had just joined the company, he made it his mission to understand all the products. If you recall the story, he did not just sell the stuff that was in his department but he even went to sell products that were in other departments. What about you, how well do you know the products and services in your company? Can you be able to give a client a bouquet of solutions that can cause a client to create stickiness with your company? Or do you have to keep calling your boss every 15 minutes because you don’t understand the products in your company? Knowing the products and services in your company will go a long way in boosting your confidence and giving you an edge above the rest in many ways. Product knowledge is a sign that you understand your business and the company you are working for (if you are employed).

Confidence – I just mentioned confidence under product knowledge but I think this should have been the first thing that I should have pointed out. This young boy must have had some serious confidence in him for him to actually think of telling the man to go fishing since he wasn’t going to get any sex that weekend anyway. How many of you in sales would have the guts to suggest something like that to somebody? I think he also had some sense of humor too because without it, am not sure he would have seen the need to tell that guy what he said.

Less is More - all he needed was one client and he surpassed his target for the year maybe. A strategic sales person knows that it is easier to sell more to one loyal customer than it is to go looking for new customers to sell to. No matter how you look at it, it is not the quantity of sales done that matters, it is how much each brought in that matters. 

Over to you now, what other traits do you think the boy had that made him make that sale of $100K plus?

Now let’s come to you. Do you have what it takes to pull a move like that? If not, what do you need to do in order to increase you ability to sell and become such a stellar sales person like the kid?

It is always good to do a self evaluation so that you can know what to do differently in your life. If there is anything you need to learn from this boy, it is how to LISTEN to what is not being said.

Like Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.

I pray you develop a set of additional ears that will help you hear those unsaid things.


Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 27th of May, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"




Add comment

Share This Post